About Insomnia: Part One of an In-Depth Look

By: SleepScore Labs  |  June 25th, 2017

We’ve all gone through times where sleep is hard to come by. Between work stresses and everything else life throws at you, sleep is often in short supply. But what if it’s something more serious, like insomnia?

In our two-part series, we’ll dive into what insomnia is, and how it shows itself in many forms. Every type of insomnia requires a different approach to tackling it, but the solutions are not out of reach.

Who has insomnia?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia, and about 10 percent of adults have insomnia that is severe enough to cause daytime consequences.

What is Insomnia?

What specific issues fall under the umbrella term of insomnia? The National Sleep Foundation defines it as, “difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so. People with insomnia can feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.”

What the definition doesn’t explain is that insomnia doesn’t occur once and then ceases thereafter. It is an ongoing issue, and found in several forms. These are:

  • Acute
  • Chronic
  • Comorbid
  • Maintenance
  • Sleep onset

We’ll be exploring the two most common varieties, acute and chronic, in this article. In part two, we’ll dive into the lesser known variants, common symptoms, causes, and remedies.

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About Acute Insomnia

Acute insomnia is often described as being able to fall asleep but later awakening and struggling to return to sleep, or lying in the dark unable to drift to sleep. You may also feel disrupted sleep for several nights to even a week or more. Other symptoms include disruptive and distracting thoughts, irritability, and fatigue during the day. This variety is typically a short-term problem, due to a stressor in daily life that is causing these issues. Acute insomnia rarely needs treatment because once the underlying issue in your life is resolved, so too will the insomnia.

About Chronic Insomnia

On the other hand, we have chronic insomnia. This form is classified as having a difficult time falling or staying asleep for a period of weeks or months. While it can share similar underlying causes with acute insomnia, there are often deeper issues that need to be dealt with.

Chronic insomnia is a difficult variety to pin down an exact cause. WebMD notes that it may be due to depression, chronic stress, and even physical pain, while the Sleep Foundation ascribes it to unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, clinical disorders, and certain medications. Regardless of the cause, it’s critical to seek a diagnosis and treatment to cure chronic insomnia.

Treatment involves speaking with a physician, getting a physical exam, and even participating in activities like sleep journaling. Some patients are required to spend time in a sleep clinic to receive further evaluation. The main goal in treating chronic insomnia is to identify and deal with underlying conditions first and then prescribing proper treatment, including medications, therapies, or nurturing optimal sleep habits.

What can I do if I think I have insomnia?

If you feel you’re suffering from insomnia, our experts recommend you speak with a physician or sleep specialist to get you on a treatment plan. If you want to learn more about your sleep habits and get notified if you may be suffering from a sleep disorder like insomnia, you can also check out the free SleepScore App, showcasing a first-of-its-kind feature SleepScore CheckUp. Simply track your sleep for a few weeks, and CheckUp provides you with a comprehensive look at your sleep and notifies you if any signs of a sleep disorder appear. Then, you can take positive next steps with your physician to get on the path to a healthier you.

“Insomnia Fact Sheet.” American Academy of Sleep. https://aasm.org/resources/factsheets/insomnia.pdf
“What is Insomnia?”. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-is-insomnia
“The Natural History of Insomnia: Acute Insomnia and First-onset Depression”. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3902876/
“Review of sleep studies of patients with chronic insomnia at a sleep disorder unit”. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4469849/
“An Overview of Insomnia”. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/insomnia-symptoms-and-causes#1

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